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Game #151 Preview: Thornton vs Shepherd

Blue Jays (59-91) vs Orioles (49-101)

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Blue Jays hit the road after a very successful homestand, and head on down to Baltimore to take on the Orioles. If the Jays win today (or at some point in this series) they will guarantee Baltimore picks before Toronto in next year’s draft. With 11 games to go after today, it seems like a foregone conclusion, but today is technically clinching day since Baltimore had the higher pick last year too. Gametime tonight is set for 7:05 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

The Blue Jays are probably not going to be starting Trent Thornton, instead probably giving Wilmer Font the opening assignment, but Thornton is then at least expected to be the bulk guy. There is a chance that Thornton makes the start too, which would be his team leading 29th. Through his first 139.1 innings, Thornton is 5-9 with a 5.04 ERA, good enough numbers to stick around the rotation this year, but probably not good enough to guarantee himself a spot next year.

Of all his numbers, the 3.62 walks per 9 innings is the one that he will need to focus on improving, and he indeed has recently. His walk rate in the second half of the season is down almost a full walk per 9 innings since the All Star Break, although that has come at the expense of fewer strikeouts and more home runs. So somewhere in there he can maybe find a balance by getting back up to a strikeout per inning, but keeping his walk rate lower.

Thornton has faced the Orioles three times this season, including twice already in Baltimore, and has predictably gotten good results. He is 2-1 with a 2.12 ERA over 17 innings, allowing 4 runs on 15 hits and 3 walks. He has just 11 strikeouts, but has managed to keep the Orioles in the ballpark. This gives him a 2.63 FIP in his small sample against them as well, so I’m sure he’s happy to be back at Camden Yards.

Orioles Starter

The Orioles are expected to go with Chandler Shepherd, who will be making his first Major League start. He has 2 appearances so far out of the bullpen for the Orioles, working as a typical long reliever getting innings 5-8 against the Yankees back in August, then in a more typical bulk guy role his last time against the Rangers, working innings 3-5. In his 7 innings, he allowed 3 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks, striking out 5.

Shepherd is finally getting a September callup after this his 4th season in AAA, most of the time spent in the Red Sox organization prior to coming over to the Orioles’ organization in May. In 99 career games at AAA, Shepherd was 12-27 with a 5.39 ERA, with a pretty good strikeout to walk rate of 301 to 99. He was hit around pretty solidly though, allowing 357 hits in 325 innings, which goes to explain the higher ERA.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Now that they’ve had their off day, expect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Justin Smoak to be back in the starting lineup today.

Luke Maile, who was activated on Saturday, hasn’t gotten into any game action yet, but if he was going to catch anyone on this roster, it would likely either be Thornton or Clay Buchholz, guys that were around before he went down with his injury. So perhaps he’ll get into the game today.

Derek Fisher never started a game against the Yankees (although neither did Anthony Alford), so I wonder what the plan with him for the rest of the season is. He’s very obviously not the player they were expecting when they traded for him, so maybe they gave him some time off here to regroup.

Orioles’ Lineup

There are three Orioles batters who are pretty much carrying the team, single handedly keeping them above the Tigers as the worst team in baseball. Jonathan Villar (3.7 WAR), Trey Mancini (2.6) and Hanser Alberto (2.0) have more WAR than any current Blue Jay, and add up to more WAR than the total of the Orioles, including themselves. The Orioles’ position players add up to an MLB 3rd worst 4.3 WAR, ahead of the Marlins (1.0) and Tigers (-0.9).

So obviously the Orioles have a big drag on their WAR, and this year it’s not just Chris Davis. For sure one of the players is Davis and his team worst -1.6 mark, but he’s joined by Richie Martin Jr. (-1.3), former Jay Dwight Smith Jr. (-0.9) and Steve Wilkerson (-0.8) among the players who have played in at least half of the team’s games.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Marcus Semien went 3-5 with a home run and a pair of singles, driving in 2 to win the Monster Bat award on a pretty slow night across the league. His offense wasn’t quite enough though, as the Athletics fell to the visiting Royals 6-5.

Jake Lamb laced a huge 3 run double in the bottom of the 7th, rebuilding the lead that his bullpen had just surrendered in the top half of the inning. That hit alone was worth .480 of his WPA King total of .530. The Diamondbacks held on to win 7-5 over the visiting Marlins.

Jose Berrios once again takes home the Pitcher of the Day award, this time working into the 8th inning while allowing 2 runs on on 5 hits and 2 walks, striking out 8 along the way. His efforts led to the Twins win over the White Sox 5-3, another step closer to the AL Central crown, with their magic number to clinch down to 8.

Find the Link

Find the link between Shepherd and the Astros.

Stats are courtesy of Fangraphs

I’m not likely to get a preview article up tomorrow, but I will try. It’s a travel day, and I’m going to have to leave early in the morning, but maybe not too early.